*hits send and then goes back to bed with an alarm set to check my emails and Microsoft Teams messages in 2 hours*
TO: Project W.I.N. Distribution List <ProjectWINListServ@OneFootDown.com>
FROM: Pat Rick <PatRick@OneFootDown.com>
SUBJECT: What’s Important Now — Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl Oregon State Week
Happy Holidays, Project W.I.N. team members!
I hope you all have had a wonderful start to your holiday season and are enjoying restful, fun times with your loved ones — which is why I decided it was a good idea to invade your personal time and PTO with this pretty pointless email that we all could have just gone without for a week in order to not be corporate stooges and/or slaves to THE MAN!
Due to various team members’ conflicting schedules and planned time off, we canceled this week’s Project W.I.N. meeting in favor of sending an update by email, so please read below and view the attached deck for everything you need to know heading into this Friday’s big Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl!!!
With no game last week and with this being an email update instead of a live call, it’s a short agenda of topics we’ll cover in preparation for the Oregon State Beavers (see screenshot below for the list of discussion topics).
We’ll begin by just reminding everyone where we are on the Project W.I.N. timeline — we’re on the home stretch here, with just this final bowl game to go before we call it a season and turn our attention to Irish hoops (for better or worse, depending on if we’re talking about women’s or men’s) and to off-season shenanigans like recruiting, spring practice, transfer portal, etc.
So, to keep this email as short as possible, let’s go ahead and dive into an overview of this Oregon State program and institution, so we can understand what we’re up against this week.
You can peruse the screenshot/slide for all the details at your leisure this week (in between glasses of eggnog, am I right Hank?!?), but I’ll just point out some key highlights here in this email:
- “Out there” may be my favorite university motto I’ve seen from an Irish opponent this season — just fully embracing being weird and Oregonian and giving off lots of Oregon Trail/exploration vibes and I’m here for it
- Seeing how small Reser Stadium is now makes me really wanna see a game in Corvallis — I love a good tiny stadium for a P5-level football program. I bet it rules when OSU is good or when they’re playing someone like Oregon or another top Pac-12 team
- Benny Beaver is a solid mascot name — and of course having such a unique nickname as Beavers makes him a upper-tier mascot, in my opinion
- Not on the slide, but OSU’s student newspaper is called The Daily Barometer, which is a great name for a paper
- I hate to bring this to everyone’s attention but this is an opponent ND has never been able to beat, and an opponent who’s in fact absolutely destroyed the Irish in the two bowl games they’ve seen each other in. The Beavs outscored ND 79-30 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl and 2004 Insight Bowl
- However, Oregon State also has some big-name opponents they’ve never been able to defeat on the gridiron, including such blue bloods as Portland University, Grambling St., Santa Clara, Fort Lewis, and Cal State-Long Beach
- Oregon State has a FUN list of alumni — it includes the creator of Pastafarianism, someone who spent 14 years on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, the founders of Panda Express and U-Haul, the original Bozo the Clown, some Playboy Playmates and a porn star (who got expelled for public indecency), an Episcopal bishop who is also an oceanographer, the first American woman to summit Mt. Everest, the inventor of the computer mouse, and a guy named Slats Gill. An electric crew.
Okay awesome, now that we’ve covered all the pretty-important things, let’s talk about the most important thing — what are the best names on the 2023 Oregon State football roster???*
*NOTE: I just used their current roster listed on the Oregon State athletics website, so it may include players in the Transfer Portal or who’ve opted out of this game and declared for the NFL Draft. So if you don’t see some of these guys on Friday, that’s why — whoops.
I’ll let you recite each of these out loud in order to really have a great time, but just want to point out Clive Pond (which is one of my favorite names from any opponent roster this year), as well as some amazing ones that would be #1 on many other teams like Jesiah Irish (v. fitting name for this game), Makiya Tongue, Noble Thomas Jr., Tiger Black, Semisi Saluni, Jhae Drummer, and a guy named Tastean (and many more).
Excellent roster of names you’ve assembled, Oregon State. Thank you for this late Christmas gift of such a delightful lineup of monikers.
Alright, before we move on to a nice double-click into some key insights about this Oregon State team, let’s take a quick break to recognize our sponsor for this bowl, Tony the Tiger.
That’s right folks, this bowl isn’t sponsored by the cereal manufacturer or even by the brand of cereal — it’s specifically sponsored by the cereal brand’s mascot, for some reason. And I love it so much.
So, to honor an icon like Tony the T, let’s do a quick little power ranking of cereal mascots — and shout-out to the episode of All Fantasy Everything I listed to part of a week ago while traveling home from a couple friends’ wedding in Philadelphia. I didn’t get to finish it but it inspired me to really try to decide how I felt about all the cereal mascots I could think of:
You can digest this information on your own time when you’re trying to avoid building the 50th complicated toy for your child in the post-Christmas timeframe. But just to ensure you get the key info right now, I’d like to just give the quick rundown below:
1. Crazy Squares (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) — these guys were unhinged and adorable in the best and weirdest way... I love them
2. Cap’n Crunch (Cap’n Crunch) — love him and his cereals (thank you for your service, Cap’n)
3. Lucky the Leprechaun (Lucky Charms) — I feel a loyalty here since he’s a leprechaun, plus those kids were constantly trying to steal from him and get his marshmallows. I feel bad about that, but he defended his treasure well so he has earned this spot
4. Count Alfred Chocula (Count Chocula) — his name is Alfred??? Anyway, dude CARRIES this cereal considering I can’t even remember what it tastes like, but he was one of the first cereal mascots I thought of when making this list. Top-tier cereal mascot, plus he even had a disease named after him:
5. Buzz the Bee (Honey Nut Cheerios) — just an all-around stud who’s a fun mascot perfectly suited to be reppin’ a great cereal
6. Sugar Bear (Sugar Crisp/Golden Crisp) — this is another cereal we didn’t buy much (or at least I didn’t eat much), but he’s an iconic and cool legend of a cereal mascot
7. Dig ‘Em Frog (Honey Smacks) — another awesome mascot I immediately thought of as a top choice despite rarely eating this cereal. Not sure why they landed on a frog for this cereal but I’m glad they did. Bonus points for a very unique name.
8. Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes) — he’s not my favorite of these guys, but he is just an all-timer and has a top-tier slogan he always says with the “They’re grrrrrrreat!” line. Plus he’s 6’3” according to the Kellogg’s website FAQ section, so that’s a fun fact that helps me justify putting him in the top 10 for some reason
9. Toucan Sam (Froot Loops) — underrated, in my opinion — great name, good cereal, perfect fit
10. Snap, Crackle, and Pop (Rice Krispies) — iconic for such a meh cereal, these three weirdos earned a top-10 slot
11. Sonny the Cuckoo Bird (Cocoa Puffs) — he’s fun and I appreciate his enthusiasm, but he is juuuust outside the top 10 in my opinion. Plus he clearly has a addiction problem with Cocoa Puffs (because they’re not even THAT good), so I hope he can get some help for that ASAP
12. Sunny the Sun (Raisin Bran) — great name, love the simplicity. Great work, Raisin Bran
13. Cornelius Rooster (Corn Flakes) — not a big Corn Flakes guy but he’s a nice little rooster mascot that helps elevate that boring brand, so he gets this spot
14. Cookie Crook and Officer Crumb (Cookie Crisp)
15. Chip the Dog and Chip the Wolf (Cookie Crisp)
16. Cookie Jarvis (Cookie Crisp)
17. Fred Flintstone (Fruity Pebbles/Cocoa Pebbles) — Ranking him here because it’s really not fair that he can be a cereal mascot considering he has his own established chracter/brand from TV and movies. But he IS an iconic character and his “yabba dabbo doo” and that theme song of his DO slap, so he’s got that going for him
18. Trix Rabbit (Trix) — he wouldn’t leave those kids alone despite clearly knowing the rules that Trix are for kids...I hate him, even though I did LOVE the cereal growing up. One of my favorites
19. Franken Berry (Franken Berry) and Boo Berry (Boo Berry) — the non-Count Chocula monster cereal mascots don’t really do it for me, ya know?
20. Cinnamon and Apple (Apple Jacks) — these guys always seemed a little offensive? But I will give them credit for having a very different and unique and refreshing vibe from other cereal commercials, so I guess I can appreciate that, even if I was never really a fan
21. Little Mikey (Life) — the mascot is just a human child, and it’s really before my time...but I know the reference, so I am including him here
22. Chef Wendell (Cinnamon Toast Crunch) — boring, don’t care for him at all
23. Carmella Creeper (Carmella Creeper) and Yummy Mummy (Yummy Mummy) — YIKES with these names
24. Corn Pops “mouth” (Corn Pops) — this was the ultimate nightmare and a memory I had absolutely repressed and buried deep in my subconscious until my brother Timmy decided to walk up behind me as I was working on this article and remind me of this. Now you all have to suffer through the horrors of this video:
Sweet, now we can really get into it — what should all Irish fans know about this Beavers squad they’ll face in El Paso in just a couple days???
This Beavers team had a pretty darn nice 2023 season, going 8-4 with close losses at Washington State and at Arizona, a close loss at home vs. playoff-bound Washington, and then a blowout loss at Oregon in the season finale. They beat both Utah and UCLA by double digits, finished 17th in SP+ (23rd offense, 32nd defense, 16th special teams), and had a strong enough last couple years to have head coach Jonathan Smith poached by the Michigan State Spartans immediately following the season’s end.
Smith departing for East Lansing meant that not only would Oregon State have key guys out for this bowl game who wanted to preserve their health for the NFL Draft, but also a number of guys who have entered the Transfer Portal to go play for other programs now that their head coach is gone from Corvallis.
WR coach and Passing Game Coordinator Kefense Hynson was named interim coach in Smith’s absence, and will still serve as such in this bowl game despite Defensive Coordinator Trent Bray being officially hired as the next head coach. Bray will take the reins immediately following the Sun Bowl, with Hynson remaining on Bray’s staff going forward.
So, before we dive into who’s likely to actually play for Oregon State in this one, let’s cover which key players from that top-20 2023 squad will NOT be playing on Friday.
Offensively, the Beavers will be without both their starting QB (D.J. Uiagalelei) and their backup (Aidan Chiles), who both entered the portal once Smith was poached by MSU. Chiles is a talented freshman who flashed lots of potential in his first season, throwing for 309 yards, 8.8 yards per attempt, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions while completing 69% of his passes. He also showed a lot of promise as a runner, scampering for 79 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 4.6 YPC in his limited playing time.
Chiles has committed to go with Smith to Michigan State and be their QB of the future.
Uiagalelei, as the starter, is less of a long-term loss for the Beavers but definitely a tough blow to the team’s 2024 prospects, as the former 5-star recruit and Clemson starter had a nice bounce-back season this year after transferring away from Dabo. He threw for 2,638 yards, 8.4 YPA, 21 touchdowns, and just 7 interceptions while completing 57% of his passes, and then also ran for 219 yards and 6 rushing scores. As of publication, he has not yet committed to his final landing spot for his remaining college eligibility, but has visited Florida State, could look at a school like Miami, and also is still considering taking a shot at the NFL instead of using his final year in college.
Oregon State’s star running back Damien Martinez is also likely not playing Friday, but for different reasons than any NFL Draft opt-outs or Transfer Portal entrants. The stud running back who rushed for 1,185 yads and 9 touchdowns on 6.1 yards per carry was suspended after being arrested for allegedly driving under the influence, but charges were not filed and thus his suspension was lifted in December. Still, he missed too much practice to likely be able to play in this game, according to Hynson’s comments about a week ago.
Oregon State’s leading receiver Anthony Gould (44 catches, 718 yards, 2 TDs) and #1 tight end Jack Velling (29 catches, 438 yards, 8 touchdowns) are both out for this game as well, with Gould prepping for the NFL Draft and Velling committed to following Smith and Chiles to Michigan State.
The Beavers will also be without both starting offensive tackles up front, as 4-year starter Joshua Gray is out with a foot injury and Taliese Fuaga will be sitting out to get ready for the NFL Draft. Starting guard Heneli Bloomfield is also out for the season with an injury.
On the other side of the ball, the Beavers will be a little more intact, but will still be without a few very key guys. The team’s leading tackler, LB Easton Mascarenas-Arnold (106 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 INT), has already committed to transfer to the USC Trojans, and stud DB Akili Arnold (62 tackles, 6 PD, 2 INT) has committed to join him there. Add in that talented DB Jermod McCoy (31 tackles, 7 PD, 2 INT, 1 FR) is transferring to Tennessee, and the back 7 of the OSU defense will be a bit vulnerable for Steve Angeli and the Irish offense.
Additionally, starting kicker Atticus Sappington has entered the transfer portal after hitting 49/50 extra point attempts and 13 of 14 field goals in 2023, including 5-of-6 from 40+ yards out. Reserve kicker Josh McCormick is also transferring.
With all that said, who WILL be the guys ND fans can expect to hear about and see making some plays for the Beavers on Friday afternoon? Offensively, Hynson and his interim staff will at least have a pretty experienced signal caller running the show, as 3rd string QB Ben Gulbranson actually started a number of games in 2022 while playing in 10 contests total, throwing for 1,455 yards, 7.5 YPA, 9 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions while completing 62% of his passes. Yes, he doesn’t have the physical tools or promise of Uiagalelei and Chiles, but somehow, despite losing their top 2 QBs, the Beavers will still have the edge at QB when it comes to experience — despite Gulbranson only throwing one pass in 2023 to-date (a 6-yard completion).
If Gulbranson were to go down or be unable to play for whatever reason, it’s not clear if QB2 would be between redshirt freshmen Travis Throckmorton and Dom Montiel.
On the ground, Martinez’s absence will be backup RB Deshaun Fenwick’s gain, with the senior getting the nod as starter after running for 500 yards, 5.6 YPC, and 5 touchdowns as the backup this year. He also reeled in 9 passes for 76 yards and 2 scores, showing a nice ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Redshirt sophomore Isaiah Newell (78 yards, 3.5 YPC) will be the backup running back.
With Gould and Velling gone, it will be interesting to see who steps up to help compensate for their lost production. Oregon State will still have WR Silas Bolden, who reeled in 51 passes for 718 yards and 5 touchdowns this season, while also rushing for 84 yards and 9.3 YPC while scoring twice on the ground. Expect to see him become the go-to-guy through the air, with guys like Jesiah Irish (15 catches, 246 yards, 1 TD), Rweha Munyagi (7 catches, 143 yards, 1 TD), Jeremiah Noga (8 catches, 113 yards, 1 TD), and Jimmy Valsin III (8 catches 103 yards, 1 TD) expected to chip in at wideout as well.
Velling’s replacement as the big target and red zone threat is TE Riley Sharp, who had 6 catches for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, showing flashes of nice production as Velling’s backup. Bryce Caufield and Gabe Milbourn will also see more action at the position than earlier in the year.
Finally, with both starting tackles out, redshirt frosh Jacob Strand is expected to take over at left tackle, while 4th-year sophomore (redshirt junior with a COVID year available) Tyler Morano will get the nod at right tackle. Grant Starck will likely play at left guard in place of Bloomfield.
Defensively, Oregon State will replace Akili Arnold with Jack Kane (17 tackles, 3 PD) at safety, and will use starter Calvin Hart Jr. (61 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR), freshmen Melvin Jordan IV (16 tackles) and Isaiah Chisom, and 4th-year junior John Miller to fill the void at linebacker with Mascarenas-Arnold out.
The Beavers should also get formerly injured DBs Jaden Robinson (32 tackles, 7 PD, 1 FF) and Noble Thomas (15 tackles, 3 PD) back for this one, which should help bolster the back end a bit. DB Kitan Oladapo (62 tackles, 6 PD, 2 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 sack) and Ryan Cooper Jr. (37 tackles, 7 PD, 1 INT TD) are a couple other names to watch in the Oregon State secondary.
The biggest reason for Oregon State fans to have some optimism for this matchup is that the Beavers front seven should all be playing, and that position group is their defense’s greatest strength. They’re excellent at getting to the passer, with lots of guys on the d-line and in the linebacking corps who can get to the QB and/or get penetration into the backfield to get tackles for loss and blow up plays.
LB Andrew Chatfield Jr. is the biggest name to know there, as he’s managed to pick up 9 sacks on the year on just 27 tackles, while also getting 2 PD, 2 interceptions, and forcing 2 fumbles. With LBs John McCartan (44 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 PD, 1 INT, 1 FF), Hart Jr. (3.5 sacks), and Cory Stover (30 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR) all showing the ability to supplement Chatfield’s work, missing Mascarenas-Arnold is tough but not the end of the world.
Plus, the Beavers defensive line has some really nice players who will give the Irish’s new starters on the offensive line PLENTY to handle, with DL Sione Lolohea (39 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 FR), Joe Golden (37 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 FR), James Rawls (23 tackles, 1 FF), Isaac Hodgins (20 tackles, 3 sacks), and Takari Hickle (2 sacks, 1 FF) displaying the ability to muck things up for opposing offenses.
On special teams, with multiple kickers gone, Everett Hayes will assume placekicking duties for the Beavers. Hayes was OSU’s regular kicker from 2019 to 2022, but had a leg injury this season that he’s just now bouncing back from.
Okey dokey folks, let’s get to What’s Important Now as we enter this final game of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football season — here’s what we need to focus on this week.
I won’t re-type everything in the slide for you, but would like to just quickly reiterate the 6 key points below:
1. Let’s see what Stevie “Peanut Butter” Angeli’s got!!! Obviously the Irish have gone out and secured Riley Leonard as the likely starter for 2024, but this is Angeli’s chance to flash some potential, whether it’s to make the 2024 ND QB competition interesting or to give other programs a glimpse of what he could do as a transfer. It should be fun to see him get a full game under center.
2. With that said, the Irish need to POUND the ball on Friday. It’s time to unleash Jeremiyah Love and Jadarian Price, especially considering the offensive line is largely new and will probably be more capable of run blocking than securing a great pocket and plenty of time for Angeli against a good Oregon State pass rush. Let the young kids flourish in Audric Estime’s absence!
3. Time to see what the young guys have to add to what Kris Mitchell and Beaux Collins will bring in 2024. Jordan Faison and Jaden Greathouse have both flashed plenty, but now it’s time for them to be go-to guys in the passing game. Similarly, at tight end it’s time to see what Eli Raridon and Cooper Flanagan can do as the key dudes at TE.
4. Time to see what we have in terms of the o-line of the future! No Joe Alt, no Blake Fisher, no Zeke Correll, and Rocco Spindler still injured…how will true frosh Charles Jagusah do as starting LT? Will Tosh Baker show he’s developed into a starter on the other side? Will we see Aamil Wagner? And how will the interior hold up with some guys with some experience but not a ton?
5. Defensively, it’s all about just continuing to play as they have. No Cam Hart, Thomas Harper, or Marist Liufau, but otherwise the defense is mostly intact. Still, there will be chances for young guys, like Drayk Bowen and Jaylen Sneed and Jaden Mickey and Christian Gray, among others. How will they look in their auditions for starting jobs in 2024?
6. Go get Marcus a double-digit win season and some momentum to build on for 2024, which is shaping up to be a pivotal season with a very navigable schedule, strong talent aligning, and an expanded playoff.
Okay fantastic, if anyone has any questions...
Please reach out via email or Teams and I will do my best to get back to you during my current PTO in order to get you the answers you need.
In the meantime, please see this link for our deck for the week, and let’s have a fantastic week of prep for this bowl so we can get Marcus Freeman his first double-digit win season of his young head coaching career!
Thanks for reading all of this, and I wish you a very happy and healthy New Year!!!